The Wrong Question

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”  (John 4:34)

Jesus considered God’s will to be His highest priority (see John 4:43-34). Following God’s will is also important to you. Often when people want to know God’s will, they will ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” As one of my seminary professors, Gaines S. Dobbins, used to say, “If you ask the wrong question, you are going to get the wrong answer.”

“What is God’s will for my life?” is not the best question to ask. The better inquiry is, “What is God’s will?” Because people are naturally self-centered, we tend to view the whole world — even God’s activity — in terms of our own lives. Of course, we want to know what we should do and how events will affect us. But that is actually an inverted life-perspective. Once I know God’s will, my life gains its proper perspective, and I can adjust my life to Him and to His purposes. In other words, what is it that God is purposing to accomplish where I am? Once I know what God is doing, then I see what I should do. My focus needs to be outward on God and His purposes, not inward on my life…

Discovering God’s greater plan helps you know what He wants to do through you. 

— Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby and Claude King in “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God”

SOUND BITES is a free, five-day-a-week e-mail ministry begun in 1999 in memory of Dustin Wilkinson, 1982-1998.  Rev. Dave Wilkinson is founder and editor. SOUND BITES originates from First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA.  To subscribe to SoundBites click HERE

The Front Lawn Comes Alive for Christmas Season

If evangelism has a significant mixture of hospitality and communication, here is a project that has both and that is so exciting!

We have begun to build a life-size silhouette nativity – from camels to the baby Jesus – 15 figures is the goal for this round – for the front lawn. When all is said and done, these 15 figures will cost about $1,700 because we will eventually paint each figure with realistic detail and all those colors are expensive. The initial cost before all the paint is $1,000; and we are hoping that we can cover these material expenses through donations since all the cutting, priming, painting and install are free labor!

Initially, we will have white silhouettes as the prep of the wood so that it is smooth, primed and sealed is labor intensive. Thanks to Randy Longino, Rudy Herren, Gina Alford, Cookie Keene, Wayne Hunsucker, and RayeAnn Holewinski for jumping on board and please forgive if someone has been left off the list. If you feel led, we appreciate your contribution of labor and money; so let RayeAnn or Pastor Beverly know.

We are also asking for donations of solar floodlights.  We will need 4.

And yes, the scene will come together over the four weeks of December as all journey across the lawn to the stable.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

Stewardship of All God Has Given Us – Visions of 2019

As we begin our stewardship campaign (October 21 – November 11), we are going to be talking about our stewardship of all that God has given us, and not just the money (aka gifts in this context).  We also are stewards of our time, talent, service and witness.  A lot of these have nothing to do with pledging money.  Some take a bit of money for gas, but it is mostly the gift of service using our time and talents to be a witness. Fayette County has plenty of opportunities for a church like NFUMC to be in hands-on mission and ministry, and the UMC has things we can do to help people all over with such things as the various UMCOR kits. 

As we begin our stewardship program and plan for 2019, please be in prayer for how we might be disciples serving and making disciples here in the following areas. As you read, you may be lead to things not mentioned here.  If so, do not keep it to yourself.


Our opportunities to reach out to the community have old and promise new opportunities. 

Christmas with Santa will give us the joy of serving children of our community again. What can we do to enhance the day? Something new? How can we invite them back to something else like VBS or Grow Camp where they can learn more about God and develop their relationship with Christ regardless of whether they attend a church regularly already.

And speaking of VBS, we could have a community-facing program this year.  That means we begin planning in January, we work with all of the smaller UMCs in our area and invite them to join us, we schedule a week that fits with other activities around us, we place banners and signage, and we use a mailing list from Breakfast with Santa.  We could have 30-75 children, and the only question is, will you serve?

The Peachtree Wind Ensemble is rehearsing here weekly, and will hold two more concerts this year on our campus, both during the Advent/Christmas season. For these holiday events, what can we do that would be a gift for the attendees or an opportunity to extend our ministry? You might not know that we have two wonderful church members who came to us through PWE, Liz and Phil Cole! The ministry of music is powerful, and we have a grand opportunity to be blessed and a blessing!

Evangelism As Hospitality

Most people may not think that evangelism is a matter of communion or hospitality, both are critical to offering Christ to folks.  We do a good job nurturing most of our congregation, but hospitality is a different concept. Hospitality is doing things for others who are not us (at least not yet), and seeing things through their eyes.  It means that we think about them, their needs, what they are seeking, and striving to open our doors and our hearts to receive and nurture them.

Making our campus a welcoming place begins with letting people know that we care. A group of folks have continued the efforts begun before last year’s homecoming, cleaning out storage areas and developing a list of things that need to be done to make NFUMC looke like a loved and cared for place.  We know that when our facilities look their best – look cared for – that it sends a message. We care about God’s house and we care about having a welcoming environment because we also care about the people who are new to us. There is a lot more that goes into Evangelism, and we will get to that.  But, one of the easiest and most satisfying things is to work together to be good stewards of this place.  Mostly it takes some sweat equity, some paint, and a measure of creativity; but it sends a large and powerful message:  we are alive, well and welcoming!

For those of us who find the work almost spiritual, cleaning out the closets, attic and basement; and finding new homes for all kinds of things is fulfilling.  And yes, even sending some things to the dump is sometimes needed. It makes room – literally and figuratively – for new things, new thoughts, new hopes, and can open us up to the fellowship of work and the ministry of hospitality. If you want to join this team, contact Gina Alford. So, will you do this?

Hospitality is more than a welcoming “looking” place, it is also welcoming people.  Our greeters and ushers are so important as they not only engage people coming to worship, but also share info with Pastor Beverly.  But, saying hello is only the beginning.

These days, people want to know if they can belong before anything else, even before they can really hear some of the important things about faith and God. And, the first step to knowing they belong is whether or not people already here care.  If we care, we want to know about them, break bread with them, and include them in what we are doing around the church.

What if you took the time after worship (please not during worship!) to find out a little about someone you haven’t known before – visitor or member – and invited them to lunch?  Took a rain check (with contact infor), so you could reschedule if it wasn’t convenient that Sunday? That is REAL hospitality, not the “ya’ll come” kind. That open ended without any intentionality or commitment is just what it sounds like: insincere.

And, what if you not only invited them to a class or meeting and actually had something in mind that you could invite them to do, and introduced them to whatever you and your group were doing instead of assuming they would figure it out. Or, better yet, you included them, listened to them, and accepted their suggestions.  Wow, that would be powerful.

So, the real question is, will you do these things?

Evangelism as Communication

One of the biggest downfalls in churches is communication.  Sometimes it is because we think that “everybody knows” what is happening, when, how and by whom.  Actually only the people who have done whatever it is for years know any of this, and new people know nothing about it. 

Communication is hospitality in that people need to know what is happening to get involved.

Communication is in advance.

Communication requires planning and teamwork. It is not a solo or last minute thing.

Communicators will work together to do the best job they in order to reach the most people and be the most effective with whatever they are doing.

Are you a communicator? Are you willing to be a part of a team who strive to make sure that everyone knows about events, fundraisers, missions, ministry, etc.? Will you do this?


Making disciples and growing in discipleship are intentional. It is a process which includes getting us all into growth mode: information plus transformation, equals growth … and growth leads to increasing maturity and that means we can bear fruit. These fruits of the spirit are the internal qualities that Paul talks about (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, Galatians 5:22-23)which enable us to live out the Christian life, and becoming better and better servants and witnesses to the gospel.

So, when was the last time you did a Bible study? Did you have a really good confirmation experience?  If you don’t attend Sunday School now or want a deeper experience, are you willing to do a Bible Study? Not interested traditional Sunday School?  How about a small group gathering in your home, say once a month to start with, where you break bread, fellowship and spend some time studying together.? It’s never too late to grow … that is life! The only question is, will you do this?

And here’s just one more question about discipleship: are you supporting others in their discipleship as they seek to learn, grown, serve, offer hospitality, communicate, reach out, and all that? Most often, we don’t give each other the support we should. Since it is very important that everyone have some way to be involved in the life of the church, and that no one does (or should do) everything; we have to be gentle with one another. No one is really in control of everything in a church.  Pastor Beverly has been ordained with the authority to “order the church,” but even she does not control the church.  Her job is not to do our jobs or to tell us how things have to be done, but to guide, encourage, direct when there is a reason (disciplinary, theological, doctrinal, scriptural), and generally encourage everyone to be in ministry.

Going back to Paul again, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

The more we are doing, the more fruitful we are, the more we are about the work of the Lord; the more likely we will need to remember that.  We will easily forget the Lord of the work and his ways, and step on each other’s toes.  It is among the first stumbling blocks that we place in our path and the path of others when a church begins to move and grow and thrive.


At the end of our “no more pew potatoes” month, we joined other UMCs in our cluster for a morning at MidWest Food Bank.  It was a lot of fun, no particular skills were required, and a wide range of ages participated. Pastor Beverly was asked, “Why don’t we do this more often?”

Well, there is no reason we cannot plan to do a Morning of Mission on a regular basis. What if we started with a quarterly schedule? We primarily need a coordinator/contact, and folks to sign up.  It is really that easy to get involved with doing hands-on ministry. So, what are some of the things we could do?  There are plenty of opportunities that many of you know about.  What are they?  Will you become involved?

Mission: Extending the Table

One of the most meaningful things we could do on a communion Sunday is extend the table to the homebound. Pastor Beverly has a number of “traveling communion sets,” and we have the people who could do this.

No, you are not presiding at the table because that is something only an ordained elder can do. You are extending the table by taking the already consecrated elements of bread and wine (aka juice).  There is a brief order of worship with prayers and such already there that you read, and for some prayer, have everyone who is able read with you. Pastor Beverly will make sure you are trained and comfortable, and will ride along with you to get you started if needed.

This is a huge blessing for those that receive as well as those who journey out to share the Lord’s Table with others. So, will you do this?

Praying Our Way Forward


WASHINGTON, D.C.  — The Council of Bishops, in partnership with The Upper Room, is launching Phase 3 of Praying our Way ForwardPhase 1 involved 84 members of the Council of Bishops praying for The United Methodist Church’s way forward for 15 minutes daily, from August to December 2016. This was followed by Phase 2, which resulted in 18 continuous months of daily individual and corporate prayer by faithful members of annual conferences around the globe.

“Now we are ready to launch Phase 3, which begins June 3 and continues through the Special Session of General Conference in February 2019.  In this phase, we are encouraging every United Methodist to fast weekly and to pray daily with the Council of Bishops,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, the Prayer Team Coordinator.

In Phase 3, all United Methodists are invited to:

1. Engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-afternoon.  Those who have health situations causing food fasts to be unadvisable might consider fasting from social media, emails or another daily activity.

2. Pause and pray for our church’s mission and way forward daily for four minutes from 2:23 through 2:26 a.m. or p.m. in their own time zone OR at another time.  This is because the Special Session of General Conference will be held February 23 through February 26, 2019.

3. Pray using a weekly prayer calendar that will be posted on the website from June 2, 2018, through the end of February 2019. The calendar will list a unique cluster of names each week. The names will balance United States bishops and delegates with Central Conference bishops and delegates. It will also include General Secretaries, Commission on a Way Forward members, the Commission of the General Conference and the staff of the General Conference.

 “We urge every Annual Conference to use the video available on the website to promote Phase 3 of Praying Our Way Forward.  There will also be a local church media kit with downloadable resources including logos, social media posts, and bulletin inserts available by Memorial Day,” said Tom Albin, director of Spiritual Formation for The Upper Room.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, Council of Bishops Life Together chair, added: “We believe that the acts of weekly fasting and prayer will help us approach General Conference both individually and corporately in a posture of humility and receptivity to one another and to the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit,”

For more details, visit

Commission on The Way Forward

Members of the Commission on a Way Forward ended their March meeting with a letting-go prayer event in which they gave up control of their final report to the Council of Bishops, who officially received the final report at an April/May meeting in Chicago.

By: Christa Meland

In February 2019, at a Special Session of the General Conference, United Methodist delegates from around the world will decide how to move forward as a denomination around the issue of human sexuality.

A diverse “Commission on a Way Forward” that was appointed by the Council of Bishops has spent the past two years working to address the denomination’s differences on this topic.

The Commission members are:

  • Jorge Acevedo, USA, Florida, elder, male
  • Brian Adkins, USA, California, elder, male
  • Jacques Umembudi Akasa, Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, laity, male
  • Tom Berlin, USA, Virginia, elder, male
  • Matt Berryman, USA, Illinois, laity, male
  • Helen Cunanan, Philippines, elder, female
  • David Field, Europe, Switzerland, laity, male
  • Ciriaco Francisco, Philippines, bishop, male
  • Grant Hagiya, USA, California, bishop, male
  • Hortense Aka Dago-Akribi,,Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, laity, female
  • Scott Johnson, USA, New York, laity, mal
  • Jessica Lagrone, USA, Kentucky, elder, female
  • Thomas Lambrecht, USA, Texas, elder, male
  • MyungRae Kim Lee, USA, New York, laity, female
  • Julie Hager Love, USA, Kentucky, deacon, female
  • Mazvita Machinga, Africa, Zimbabwe, laity, female
  • Patricia Miller, USA, Indiana, laity, female
  • Mande Guy Muyombo, Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, elder, male
  • Eben Nhiwatiwa, Africa, Zimbabwe, bishop, male
  • Dave Nuckols, USA, Minnesota, laity, male
  • Casey Langley Orr, USA, Texas, deacon, female
  • Gregory Palmer, USA, Ohio, bishop, male
  • Donna Pritchard, USA, Oregon, elder, female
  • Tom Salsgiver, USA, Pennsylvania, elder, male
  • Robert Schnase, USA, Texas, bishop, male
  • Jasmine Rose Smothers, USA, Georgia, elder, female
  • Leah Taylor, USA, Texas, laity, female
  • Debra Wallace-Padgett ,USA, Alabama, bishop, female
  • Rosemarie Wenner, Europe, Germany, bishop, female
  • Alice Williams,USA, Florida, laity, female
  • John Wesley Yohanna, Africa, Nigeria, bishop, male
  • Alfiado S. Zunguza, Africa, Mozambique, elder, male
  • The moderators of the Commission are:
  • Sandra Steiner Ball, USA, West Virginia, bishop, female
  • Kenneth Carter, USA, Florida, bishop, male
  • David Yemba, Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, bishop, male

The commission forwarded two detailed plans to the Council of Bishops for their consideration: the One-Church Plan and the Connectional Conferences Plan. A third plan considered by the commission, the Traditionalist Plan, was later added by the bishops to the plans to be presented to the 2019 General Conference.

The Council of Bishops is recommending the One-Church Plan, but all three plans reported by The Way Forward Committee were reviewed and ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council of the UMC, and will be brought to the conference being held in St. Louis, MO, February 23 – 26 2019. The complete report is some 93 pages long. (Click here to access the complete report with detailed information on all the plans.).

Bishop Bruce R. Ough of the Minnesota Annual Conference offers this wisdom to United Methodist churches and leaders – both clergy and laity –  as they await the Special Session of the General Conference:

  • Do not make decisions before they are made.
  • Lead out of a convicted humility.
  • Be a non-anxious presence.
  • Be relational in your leadership.
  • Affirm all the voices and values.
  • Speak to the anxiety and fear.
  • Strengthen congregational resiliency by building
    • MC identity
    • biblical and interpretive fluency
    • missional commitment
    • the practice of respectful conversation
    • and strengthening your leadership team using resources such as The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, and God Unbound.

Bishop Sue Hauper-Johnson, North Georgia Annual Conference spoke about the upcoming General Conference at the 2018 North Georgia Annual Conference.  You are encouraged to listen to this as it outlines where members of the conference stand in general as well as her advice. View Video by Clicking Here.